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>>Pakistan – Members of Pakistan’s intelligence agency were involved in planning the July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Afghanistan, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, which recently intercepted communications relating to the bombing. The U.S. agencies also said that there was new information showing an increase in the amount of intelligence that the members of Pakistan’s intelligence agency are providing to militants targeted by the U.S.

>>Israel – According to the most recent polls in three major newspapers, Israel’s foreign minister Tzipi Livni has a clear lead (8 to 18 points) over transport minister Shaul Mofaz in the campaign to replace Ehud Olmert as leader of Kadima. Olmert retired on Wednesday. However, two of the three papers show Livni running even with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu were snap parliamentary elections to be held.

>>China – In the lead-up to next week’s Olympics, China has partially lifted the great firewall, allowing greater access at the main press center for the Games after scrutiny by Olympic officials, journalists, and Western officials. President Hu has also suggested that China might be primed for greater economic and politic reforms after the Games, if the actual event is not politicized.

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>>South Africa – South African troops have been deployed to stop the recent backlash against foreigners that has left 42 dead and forced 15,000 to flee. This morning raids at three hostels in Johannesburg ended in the arrest of 28 people and the seizure of drugs, arms, and ammunition. The last time troops were used to ease unrest was in 1994 at the end of apartheid era. Some members of the South African government, including the director general of the intelligence agency and the minister of intelligence, have claimed that the attacks were orchestrated by movements that supported the apartheid government.

>>Georgia – Georgia’s ruling United National Movement party has crushed its opponents in the parliamentary election, securing 59.5 percent of the vote according to official results released today, and cemented the power of President Mikheil Saakashvili. The second place United Opposition Bloc, which received 17.7 percent of the vote, has complained of irregularities in both the campaign and the vote. International monitors believe that the elections were an improvement on the past, but far from perfect.

>>Italy – Nearly 20 years after it was shut down by referendum in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, Italy’s nuclear power program is to be revived. Italy, the world’s biggest net importer of energy, will begin construction on new nuclear power plants by 2013.

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Japanese whisky beats Scotch?

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>>China – Envoys from the Dalai Lama will travel to China on Saturday for informal talks. China has blamed the exiled Buddhist leader for fomenting the March 10 unrest in Tibet, which it claims was aimed at distracting attention from the Beijing Olympic Games in August. This is the seventh round of dialog between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys since 2002. While the envoys are there, they can visit Beijing airport’s newly opened terminal 3 (the largest building in the world), a factory that will soon produce one in four bibles, and the world’s longest sea bridge. If I were them, I’d avoid Mia Farrow though.

>>Iraq – Turkish bombers launched three hours of fierce raids on northern Iraq last night. No casualties were reported. The raids were targeting senior PKK members in Iraq’s remote Qandil mountains.

>>Germany – A rally by 6,000 left-wing demonstrators to protest a rally by Germany’s extreme right-wing National Democratic Party broke bad yesterday in Hamburg, as protesters set cars on fire and pelted police with bottles. Water cannons were used to quell the violence. May Day typically brings violent street protests to German cities, but these may have been the worst in years.

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Today is World Malaria Day. Play the Deliver the Net game, and a life-saving bed net will be sent to Africa on your behalf.

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>>China – The Chinese state news organization announced today that Chinese officials will meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama. A spokesman for the Lama said they had received no word of the meeting. The announcement comes as a surprise given the fact that China’s government denounces the Dalai Lama as a traitor and as an instigator of unrest, particularly the most recent. The Olympic torch, which has met with widespread protests — generally about the status of Tibet — in its world tour, will be brought into Tibet in May, where the relay will include a summitting of Mt. Everest, and into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in June.

>>Iraq – After a year-long boycott, Tawafiq, the largest Sunni bloc in Iraq’s government, has agreed to rejoin the cabinet of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Representatives cited the recently passed amnesty legislation, which has already led to the release of some Sunni prisoners, and the government’s fighting of Shi’ite insurgents as reasons for the policy shift. “Details” reportedly have not been worked out, a designation that has, historically in Iraqi politics, represented a significant hurdle.

>>Nepal – The results are final from Nepal’s historic April 10 parliamentary election. The party respresenting former rebel Maoists has won 220 of 601 seats, twice as many as the second-place Nepali Congress party. The new assembly will craft a new constitution, and the Maoists have stated that they will end Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy. The election caps the 2006 peace agreement, which ended a bloody 10-year civil war.

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>>China – The Chinese state news organization announced today that Chinese officials will meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama. A spokesman for the Lama said they had received no word of the meeting. The announcement comes as a surprise given the fact that China’s government denounces the Dalai Lama as a traitor and as an instigator of unrest, particularly the most recent. The Olympic torch, which has met with widespread protests — generally about the status of Tibet — in its world tour, will be brought into Tibet in May, where the relay will include a summitting of Mt. Everest, and into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in June.

>>Iraq – After a year-long boycott, Tawafiq, the largest Sunni bloc in Iraq’s government, has agreed to rejoin the cabinet of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Representatives cited the recently passed amnesty legislation, which has already led to the release of some Sunni prisoners, and the government’s fighting of Shi’ite insurgents as reasons for the policy shift. “Details” reportedly have not been worked out, a designation that has, historically in Iraqi politics, represented a significant hurdle.

>>Nepal – The results are final from Nepal’s historic April 10 parliamentary election. The party respresenting former rebel Maoists has won 220 of 601 seats, twice as many as the second-place Nepali Congress party. The new assembly will craft a new constitution, and the Maoists have stated that they will end Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy. The election caps the 2006 peace agreement, which ended a bloody 10-year civil war.

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>>South Africa – Thousands of South Africans took to the streets of Johannesburg to protest the rise in food prices, which have increased by around 14 percent. This protest follows similar demonstrations in Haiti and Indonesia. Wheat prices worldwide have risen 140 percent, while rice prices have increased by 75 percent, mainly due to the skyrocketing cost of oil and the dramatic increase in the global middle class.

>>Russia – Russia has agreed to cancel $4.5 billion of Libya’s debt, accrued during the cold war when it was importing Soviet weaponry, in exchange for deals on energy cooperation and military assistance. Russia also agreed to help Libya construct a 310-mile rail line. Russia’s state-owned Gazprom will now undertake large-scale production and exploration projects in Libya.

>>Burundi – Bujumbura was shelled by the rebel National Liberation Front overnight, causing the government to launch a counter-offensive. The nation is still recovering from a 13-year civil war, sparked by the assassination of the first democratically elected president. All rebel groups have signed a peace agreement except the FNL.

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>>South Africa – Thousands of South Africans took to the streets of Johannesburg to protest the rise in food prices, which have increased by around 14 percent. This protest follows similar demonstrations in Haiti and Indonesia. Wheat prices worldwide have risen 140 percent, while rice prices have increased by 75 percent, mainly due to the skyrocketing cost of oil and the dramatic increase in the global middle class.

>>Russia – Russia has agreed to cancel $4.5 billion of Libya’s debt, accrued during the cold war when it was importing Soviet weaponry, in exchange for deals on energy cooperation and military assistance. Russia also agreed to help Libya construct a 310-mile rail line. Russia’s state-owned Gazprom will now undertake large-scale production and exploration projects in Libya.

>>Burundi – Bujumbura was shelled by the rebel National Liberation Front overnight, causing the government to launch a counter-offensive. The nation is still recovering from a 13-year civil war, sparked by the assassination of the first democratically elected president. All rebel groups have signed a peace agreement except the FNL.

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Will they eat cookie or cake? A British court decides.

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>>Uganda – Yesterday, Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the LRA, balked at signing a final peace deal with the Ugandan government once again, and he fired his top negotiator as well (some sources say he quit). Kony is reportedly skiddish about how Uganda’s courts would dole out the justice that Kony insisted not be carried out by the ICC; these specifics were worked out by his top negotiator.

>>North Korea – North Korea and the United States appear to have worked out a deal under which North Korea would acknowledge U.S. concerns and evidence about its nuclear program, as well as disclose its plutonium enrichment program, in lieu of the full report that the nation has delayed producing. In return the U.S. would drop two key economic sanctions.

>>Olympics – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will not attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, due to “scheduling issues.” His spokesman said that he is planning a “substantive visit” instead. Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel will also not attend.

>>Gaza – Israel has cut off the fuel supply to Gaza a day after Palestinian militants attacked Gaza’s sole fuel distribution center (located in Israel) and killed two civilians. Gaza is already under a blockade that denies the area all but humanitarian essentials.

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>>Uganda – Yesterday, Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the LRA, balked at signing a final peace deal with the Ugandan government once again, and he fired his top negotiator as well (some sources say he quit). Kony is reportedly skiddish about how Uganda’s courts would dole out the justice that Kony insisted not be carried out by the ICC; these specifics were worked out by his top negotiator.

>>North Korea – North Korea and the United States appear to have worked out a deal under which North Korea would acknowledge U.S. concerns and evidence about its nuclear program, as well as disclose its plutonium enrichment program, in lieu of the full report that the nation has delayed producing. In return the U.S. would drop two key economic sanctions.

>>Olympics – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will not attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, due to “scheduling issues.” His spokesman said that he is planning a “substantive visit” instead. Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel will also not attend.

>>Gaza – Israel has cut off the fuel supply to Gaza a day after Palestinian militants attacked Gaza’s sole fuel distribution center (located in Israel) and killed two civilians. Gaza is already under a blockade that denies the area all but humanitarian essentials.

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>>NATO – Russian President Putin sat down for the first time with leaders at the NATO summit yesterday, although Russian concerns have been heavily considered throughout the three-day meeting. Putin expressed new concerns about the U.S. missile defense shield, but also agreed to let NATO ship non-lethal supplies through Russia to Afghanistan. All told, over the course of the summit, NATO nations and candidates offered 2,000 new troops for efforts in Afghanistan.

>>Zimbabwe – Police in Harare have raided the offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and arrested two foreign journalists, including New York Times Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent Barry Bearak. Meanwhile, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party met in an emergency session to discuss whether Mugabe would contest a runoff election. There are reports that he will cede power if there is a guarantee that he will not be prosecuted. However, conflicting posturing by ZANU-PF seems to imply that the party has begun to facture and may not be acting as a united entity. It has also rendered news reporting out of Zimbabwe incomplete if not contradictory.

>>Colombia – Efforts to free ailing FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombia presidential candidate who also has French citizenship, have grown more frantic as French President Sarkozy has said that he is ready to travel to the Colombian border with Hugo Chavez if it will hasten her release. FARC has said that it will only free Betancourt through a prisoner exchange of hundreds of jailed FARC rebels, including Nayibe Rojas and Ricardo Palmera who are both held in U.S. prison.

>>Iraq – Over 1,000 Iraqi soldiers, including some senior commanders, either refused to fight or deserted the army during the assault on Basra’s Shiite militias last week.

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>>NATO – Russian President Putin sat down for the first time with leaders at the NATO summit yesterday, although Russian concerns have been heavily considered throughout the three-day meeting. Putin expressed new concerns about the U.S. missile defense shield, but also agreed to let NATO ship non-lethal supplies through Russia to Afghanistan. All told, over the course of the summit, NATO nations and candidates offered 2,000 new troops for efforts in Afghanistan.

>>Zimbabwe – Police in Harare have raided the offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and arrested two foreign journalists, including New York Times Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent Barry Bearak. Meanwhile, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party met in an emergency session to discuss whether Mugabe would contest a runoff election. There are reports that he will cede power if there is a guarantee that he will not be prosecuted. However, conflicting posturing by ZANU-PF seems to imply that the party has begun to facture and may not be acting as a united entity. It has also rendered news reporting out of Zimbabwe incomplete if not contradictory.

>>Colombia – Efforts to free ailing FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombia presidential candidate who also has French citizenship, have grown more frantic as French President Sarkozy has said that he is ready to travel to the Colombian border with Hugo Chavez if it will hasten her release. FARC has said that it will only free Betancourt through a prisoner exchange of hundreds of jailed FARC rebels, including Nayibe Rojas and Ricardo Palmera who are both held in U.S. prison.

>>Iraq – Over 1,000 Iraqi soldiers, including some senior commanders, either refused to fight or deserted the army during the assault on Basra’s Shiite militias last week.

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Enjoy an Egg McMuffin with your Morning Coffee today in honor of its inventor, Herb Peterson, who died today at age 89.

Starting 5

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s hotly contested presidential election will be held tomorrow. Opposition leaders have repeatedly stated that 84-year-old President Mugabe, who has held power for 28 years, is again undermining the election. They claim to have already discovered 90,000 suspicious names on voting rolls. Yesterday he handed out 450 cars to doctors at government-run hospitals. Security forces are on high alert amid warnings by the opposition that they will carry out Kenya-style protests if they feel the election is rigged. The Times reports on the millions of Zimbabwean refugees living in South Africa, some of which may decide to return pending the results of tomorrow’s election.

>>Tibet – Yesterday monks in Lhasa interrupted a carefully orchestrated press trip
by the Chinese government at the Jokhang Temple. The group of 30 to 40 monks wept
and shouted at Chinese authorities and spent 15 minutes with reporters
rebutting what they said were Chinese lies about the recent unrest. The
Chinese government announced that the monks won’t be punished.

>>Colombia – Colombia is offering to suspend the sentences of jailed FARC guerillas if FARC, in turn, frees Ingrid Betancourt, along with other hostages. Betancourt, a former senator and presidential candidate who has spent six years in captivity, is feared to be ill, suffering from Hepatitis B and Lesmaniasis.

>>Korea – North Korea test-fired a battery of short-range missiles today in further defiance of the new South Korean president’s reprimand on human rights and non-proliferation. The show of force follows the expulsion of 11 South Korean officials from a jointly run factory complex in Kaesong.

>>Iraq – Iraq’s government has extended their deadline for Shia militias to lay down their arms by 10 days as the assault by government forces in Basra has begun to stall.

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Enjoy an Egg McMuffin with your Morning Coffee today in honor of its inventor, Herb Peterson, who died today at age 89.

Starting 5

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s hotly contested presidential election will be held tomorrow. Opposition leaders have repeatedly stated that 84-year-old President Mugabe, who has held power for 28 years, is again undermining the election. They claim to have already discovered 90,000 suspicious names on voting rolls. Yesterday he handed out 450 cars to doctors at government-run hospitals. Security forces are on high alert amid warnings by the opposition that they will carry out Kenya-style protests if they feel the election is rigged. The Times reports on the millions of Zimbabwean refugees living in South Africa, some of which may decide to return pending the results of tomorrow’s election.

>>Tibet – Yesterday monks in Lhasa interrupted a carefully orchestrated press trip
by the Chinese government at the Jokhang Temple. The group of 30 to 40 monks wept
and shouted at Chinese authorities and spent 15 minutes with reporters
rebutting what they said were Chinese lies about the recent unrest. The
Chinese government announced that the monks won’t be punished.

>>Colombia – Colombia is offering to suspend the sentences of jailed FARC guerillas if FARC, in turn, frees Ingrid Betancourt, along with other hostages. Betancourt, a former senator and presidential candidate who has spent six years in captivity, is feared to be ill, suffering from Hepatitis B and Lesmaniasis.

>>Korea – North Korea test-fired a battery of short-range missiles today in further defiance of the new South Korean president’s reprimand on human rights and non-proliferation. The show of force follows the expulsion of 11 South Korean officials from a jointly run factory complex in Kaesong.

>>Iraq – Iraq’s government has extended their deadline for Shia militias to lay down their arms by 10 days as the assault by government forces in Basra has begun to stall.

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>>Tibet – Ongoing protests surrounding the anniversary of the 1959 uprising that led to the flight of the Dalai Lama continue to grow. Yesterday, hundreds of monks took to the streets in Lhasa in the largest demonstrations against Chinese rule in over two decades. Chinese authorities responded by locking down the three largest monasteries. At least two monks in those monasteries attempted suicide by stabbing themselves. Others are on hunger strike. Today, protesters have set fire to police cars and shops. Mount Everest has been closed in hopes that protestors won’t spoil the planned Olympic torch assent.

>>Iran – Iran’s general election is under way. Conservatives are expected to do well, as everyone else has been barred from running. Iranian authorities are countering expected lackluster participation by entreating citizens to vote as a sign of defiance of the U.S. and other enemies of Iran.

>>Pakistan – The last corruption charge (the ‘BMW case’) and impediment to Asif Ali Zardari’s ability to seek public office was dropped today.

Quote of the Day

“Concern over climbing activities, crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental pressures will cause potential safety problems in Qomalangma areas. We are not able to accept your expedition, so please postpone your climbing.”
A letter to expedition companies from the China Tibet Mountaineering Association announcing the closing of Mt. Everest.

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An 8-year-old Brazilian who passed a law school entrance exam has been blocked from enrolling becasuse they think he should finish elementary school first.

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>>Jerusalem – At least one gunman entered the Merkaz Harav seminary in Jerusalem on Thursday and fired 500 to 600 bullets, killing eight and endangering a fragile lull in the violence and the possibility of the resumption of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israel has said that it will not break off talks.

>>Weapons – Russian arms dealer Viktor “Merchant of Death” Bout, said to be the inspiration for the protagonist in Lord of War was arrested in a Bangkok hotel room on Thursday by D.E.A. agents posing as FARC rebels attempting by buy millions in arms. He was promptly charged with conspiracy in the U.S.

>>United NationsTwo top jobs at the UN just opened up as Jean-Marie Guehenno, the Undersecretary General for Peackeeping, and Louis Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have decided to leave their posts. Guehenno oversaw UN peacekeeping over an 8-year period, during which time the number of peacekeeping missions and peacekeepers skyrocketed at the request of the UN Security Council.

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Beware the plague of the jellyfish, but flock to the Indian train system. It sounds safer than Amtrak … in one way at least.

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>>Kenya – Rival leaders in Kenya signed a powersharing agreement yesterday, a day after it looked like talks had fallen apart. The agreement, mediated by Kofi Annan, stipulates the creation of a powerful Prime Minister position, which will be filled by opposition leader Odinga, and the splitting of cabinet posts between the government and opposition. When news of the agreement was broadcast, crowds filled the streets of Nairobi to celebrate.

>>Cuba – Cuba signed two UN human rights agreements, both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, yesterday, a step that Fidel Castro had been unwilling to take. Both went into force in 1976. Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque also announced that Cuba would open its doors to UN Human Rights Council scrutiny in 2009.

>>Afghanistan – Prince Harry, third in line to the throne of England, has been serving on the front lines in Afghanistan for the last 10 weeks (timeline) as part of a deal to keep him from leaving the Army after he was denied deployment in Iraq. The news was kept safe through a remarkable media blackout deal between the UK military and news outlets, which was broken by a “world exclusive” on the Drudge Report, prompting rebukes from, among others, News of the World Executive Editor Neil Wallis and the head of the British Army. Prince Harry, known by call sign “Widow Six Seven,” worked as a forward air controller at forward operating base Delhi near the border with Pakistan (excellent color here). He is now slated to be withdrawn, amid concerns for his safety and that of his fellow soldiers.

Quote of the Day

“It’s bizarre. I’m out here now, haven’t really had a shower for four days, haven’t washed my clothes for a week and everything seems completely normal … I think this is about as normal as I’m ever going to get.”
– Prince Harry

“I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us. This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number overseas, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations.”
– Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British Army

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President Bush’s dance movies in Liberia have been unfairly labeled as “David Brent-style gyrations.” Obama handily wins the Democratic “global primary,” but only claims .5 more delegates…don’t ask me how you get half a delegate.

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vs.

>>Serbia – Hundred of thousands of Serbs protested Kosovo’s declaration of independence in Belgrade, setting fire to the already closed U.S. embassy and damaging the UK embassy, which was quickly condemned by the UN Security Council.

>>Uganda – Two days after reported progress in peace talks, the Lord’s Resistance Army has walked out of negotiations because the government balked at demands for cash and cabinet positions. The BBC reports on how the violence in Kenya has disrupted the food aid route from Mombasa to Kampala. The WFP has strategic reserves, but those are dwindling.

>>Missile Defense – In a predictable follow-up to yesterday’s missile strike on a failing satellite, U.S. Secretary of Defense has said that the action proved that the controversial U.S. missle defense system works.

>>Pakistan – The Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, long-time rivals, have agreed to form a coalition government, after together claiming a majority of seats in parliamentary elections on Monday. Analysts speculate that the first acts of the new government may be to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudry as chief justice and call for a UN investigation into Bhutto’s assassination. The PPP will meet to pick the next Prime Minister. Party leader and Bhutto widower, Asif Ali Zardari is not eligible.

>>Iraq – Moqtada al-Sadr has agreed to extend his ceasefire, widely thought to have reduced violence in Iraq by more than half, another six months.

>>Iran – Britain and France have formally submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council seeking another round of sanctions against Iran. They hope for passage next week. The U.S. had hoped for earlier adoption of the resolution, but several Member States pressed to wait until after the IAEA’s latest report is released today.

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A day after Valentine’s, and where’s the love? Romney has some for McCain. I have some for Indy.

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>>Hezbollah – In front of 10,000 mourners at the funeral of Imad Mughnieh in Beirut, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with “open war,” because he said, “you have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield.” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki read a letter of condolence from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel stepped up security in the wake of his death. Tens of thousands also gathered yesterday in Beirut to commemorate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Photos of both rallies.)

>>OceansScience has published a report suggesting that only four percent of the world’s oceans remain pristine. Roughly 41 percent has been affected strongly by human activity — including climate change, overfishing, and pollution. The report was unprecedented in its detail: each square kilometer of ocean was examined individually.

>>Iraq – Iraq’s parliament announced that it would rely heavily on the United Nations to help organize the October 1 provincial elections mandated by the package of legislation passed earlier this week.

>>Eritrea – UNMEE, the UN peacekeeping force for Ethiopia and Eritrea, has begun to withdraw from its bases. Eritrea had attempted to force the hand of the international community on a border dispute by cutting the fuel supply of the mission.

Quote of the Day

“We want to assure the Iraqi people that this time the elections will
be free and transparent. We will cooperate completely with the United Nations and
prevent any violations.”
– Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, speaker of Iraq’s Parliament

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Romney dropped out of the Republican process. Yusuf al-Qaradawi was refused a UK visa, while Amy Winehouse was denied a U.S. one. The latter will not be able to perform at the Grammy awards.

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smoking372.jpg

>>Smoking – A WHO report, financed by Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, has found that a billion people could be killed by cigarettes in the 21st century. Poorer countries, where cigarette sales continue to climb, collect 5,000 times as much revenue from tobacco as they use to fight its use. And, only 5 percent of the world has no smoking laws similar to those in New York.

>>Pakistan – Detectives from Scotland Yard have determined that Benazir Bhutto was killed by a bomb blast, not gunfire. The Pakistan People’s Party maintains that she was shot by an assassin, and that there was a cover-up. There was no post-mortem performed on Bhutto and the scene was scrubbed soon after the event.

>>Afghanistan – Responding to a Canadian ultimatum and an unwillingness by other NATO members, France has agreed to send troops to southern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the relationship between Afghanistan and Britain has reached a new low.

>>India and China – The economies of both India and China are showing signs of long-term slowing. India’s growth rate for 2008 to this point is 8.7 percent, down from 9.6 percent last year. Forecasters see more of the same coming. Likewise, both Chinese and World Bank Economists have predicted something in the range of 9.4 percent growth for China this year and suggest that last year’s 11.4 percent growth might represent China’s peak.

Quote of the Day
  • “The W.H.O. is described by the tobacco industry as its biggest enemy. Today we intend to enhance that reputation.”
    – Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director general.
Misleading Headline of the Day
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Hillary and Barack debated in Hollywood to a crowd you usually see at a Lakers game. The candidates are releasing their 2007 fundraising numbers. Obama has raised $32 million so far in 2008.

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09_RTR1WGWT.jpg

>>Malaria – The WHO is reporting that the widespread use of anti-malarial bed nets and artemisinin, a new drug, has sharply reduced malaria deaths in some African countries. Malaria still kills over a million people a year, most of them children, and is crippling the African economy. Send a net, save a life.

>>Chad – Rebels representing the Union of Forces for Democracy from eastern Chad and seeking to drive the president from power, are advancing on N’Djamena. Government troops have been dispatched to confront the 300 vehicle column less than 50 miles from the capital. Five UNHCR vehicles have been hijacked and their offices to the east have twice been entered by armed gunmen. France is deploying 150 additional troops to provide additional protection for French nationals. Rebel groups believe that French troops helped thwart their assault on N’Djamena in 2006. A 3,700-strong EU peacekeeping force, which the rebels also oppose, is set to deploy to the refugee camps in eastern Chad in the next few weeks.

>>Afghanistan – Senior al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan and star of several al-Qaeda videos, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Northern Waziristan. Sources indicate that the missle was fired by a drone. Following Canada’s declaration that it would withdraw its 2,500 troops from Afghanistan if NATO doesn’t deploy 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan, US Sec. of Defense Robert Gates pushed Germany to do so, in what is being reported as an “unusually blunt” exchange. Reportedly, German Minister of Defense Franz Jung plans to announce at NATO defense ministers at the next meeting in Vilnius next Thursday that Germany plans to send a 250-strong “Quick Reaction Force.” Germany’s rules of engagement, out of step with the rest of the NATO mission, will also alledgedly be part of the discussion.

>>The Internet – Apparently a distressed ship attempting to moor off the coast of Egypt cut the line that has left 75 million with diminished internet services, mainly in the Middle East and India. If you’re interested in the cable network that crisscrosses the ocean floor, this is a really cool map.

>>Kenya – Ban Ki-moon is in Kenya to help revitalize the fledgling peace process initiated by Kofi Annan. Four, accused of looting and burning residences and businesses, were killed by police in Eldoret in western Kenya in the wake of the murder of opposition MP David Too. Although the opposition claims that it was a political assasination, evidence points more convincingly to a love triangle

>>Whaling – Japanese ships have resumed whaling in antarctic waters as anti-whaling activists were forced to leave to refuel.

>>Trash – The EU ordered Italy to take out the garbage in Naples. Nearly 250,000 tons of garbage has piled up on the streats. Collectors have stopped because there is no more room at the regional dumps.

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Roger Federer’s grand slam winning streak finally came to an end.
 The wife of a Fairfax county school administrator left a message
on the answering machine
of a student who called her husband at
home…and it is all the rage on YouTube.

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>>The five permanent members of the UN Security
Council and Germany have
agreed on a draft resolution
enacting a new round of
sanctions against Iran — including a new restriction on those
exporting to Iran and a stricter ban on travel for Iranian nuclear
scientists. It is unlikely that the resolution will be introduced in
the Council until next month, at which time Iran has agreed to the IAEA
to answer remaining questions on its nuclear program.

>>Brazil announced yesterday that the rate of
Amazon
rainforest destruction increased
roughly 400 percent
from August to December 2007.
 President Lula da Silva has
vowed

a 25 percent increase in
the region’s police force.

>>U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates said that the U.S. was
prepared to send troops
to assist Pakistan in fighting
militants. Meanwhile, police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have
killed a top commander
of the pro-Pakistani Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami militant group, who was
the mastermind of three bombings in Uttar Pradesh last November.

>>The EU member states’ foreign ministers are expected to agree
to a 1,800-person stabilization force for Kosovo on Monday, under the
expectation that it will soon declare independence from Serbia.
 Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has said that it is only a matter of days.

>>Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi has resigned after losing a vote of confidence in the Senate.  President Giorgio Napolitano is holding emergency meetings with political leaders in an effort to avoid snap elections.

>>Amid continuing violence, warring Kenyan political leaders met for the first time face to face,
along with Kofi Annan, who is facilitating the negotiations. Even the
most optimistic analysts agree that this is at best the first step in a
long process.

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